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Our Adventurous road trip to Austria - Itinerary and Recommendations

The picturesque town of Hallstatt, just few minutes before the sunrise.

Every year, we set a goal to embark on a road trip to the mountains in Europe, exploring hiking trails and capturing beautiful landscapes. This year, our spontaneous choice was Austria, although I must admit, after visiting the Dolomites and Switzerland last year, I had some doubts about whether Austria could live up to our previous trips. However, those doubts vanished after just one day.

Starting our journey from the heart of Poland, we quickly realized that Austria wasn't too far of a destination. Finding a suitable base for our hiking adventures proved a bit challenging, as many of the captivating natural attractions were spread out across the country. Even when we stayed in the central region, we still had to spend about an hour driving to reach our desired locations. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed driving in Austria.

Watch our YouTube video from a Road Trip in Austria

Here's Our 7-Day Itinerary for a Road Trip to Austria:

Join our epic adventure with our Austria Itinerary! Explore the stunning landscapes, charming towns, and thrilling hikes in the heart of the Alps.

Day 1 - Hallstatt - Cute town in Austria

Our first day in Austria began early as we set out to capture the sunrise in a place we had wanted to visit for a few years. In the past, we had passed by Hallstatt twice, but the weather had never been on our side. This time, we couldn't miss the opportunity.

Hallstatt turned out to be a charming, petite town. We parked our car in a public parking and headed to a popular viewpoint overlooking this lakeside town (as seen in the picture above). When we arrived, a few fellow photographers were already there, having secured their spots with tripods. The sunrise bathed the entire scene in a perfect light, and a small cloud even graced the valley, adding a delightful touch to the landscape.

By around 9 AM, Hallstatt began to fill up with people, and the temperature started to rise. We were pleased to have completed our tour by then. We enjoyed a coffee by the lake and spent a few minutes admiring the view, departing from Hallstatt just before the tour buses arrived.

Feeling tired from the road the previous day, we opted for a more relaxed start on the first day, knowing that another early wake-up awaited us the next day.

Capturing the first light at Gosausee.

Day 2 - Gosausee and Hinterersee

The area between Gosau and Hallstatt appeared to be the ideal base for exploring the attractions in this region. We reached Gosausee just before sunrise and strolled around the lake, searching for interesting compositions for our photographs. The soft morning light gently illuminated the mountains, creating a perfect backdrop for our photos.

We embarked on a walk around the lake, starting from its left side. Along the way, we came across a trail leading to another nearby lake. We initially thought of driving to this lake on our way back, but we soon discovered that Hinterersee was accessible only on foot. So, instead of completing the walk around Gosausee, we set our sights on the more distant lake. It took us about 30 minutes to navigate a moderately steep route to reach Hinterersee, and when we arrived, we realized it was worth the effort.


We took a break in a shelter on the opposite side of the lake to have breakfast. After this brief rest, we made our way back to Gosausee. It was much more comfortable to walk back, so we swapped our heavy hiking shoes for sandals. The summer sun can be scorching in the Austrian Alps.

One enjoyable aspect of Austrian lakes is that many of them are suitable for swimming. When we returned to the first lake in the early afternoon, we saw numerous people swimming or kayaking in its clear glacier water. It was tempting to take a dip, but we had something else in mind.

Gosausee is renowned not only for its beautiful lake but also for the two via ferratas it offers. Via ferratas are climbing routes secured with metal cables. You attach yourself to the cable and navigate the route. Gosausee has two via ferratas, one short and the other quite long. On that day, we had limited time, so we didn't want to miss out on the experience and opted for the shorter one.

The route proved to be quite engaging, though it did tire me out because I had to use my arm strength a lot and hold onto the cable while advancing. I was grateful for my hiking gloves since the metal cable quickly heated up in the sun, making it potentially burn the skin upon contact.

Having spent most of the day at Gosausee, we packed our belongings and headed out in hopes of catching the sunset from another viewpoint. This location was a high-elevated mountain lake, which, from one angle, seemed to end on the edge of a cliff, with Austria's tallest mountains in the background. We might have broken a few speed records as we hurried up the trail to catch the last glimpse of light. Unfortunately, we arrived a few minutes too late, and the lake was already cast in the shadow of the neighboring mountains.

Day 3 - Innsbruck, Austria

The following day, we were able to enjoy a bit more sleep. After having breakfast, we set off for Innsbruck, often referred to as the capital of the Alps. While we're not particularly fond of city visits and tend to skip them during our trips, Innsbruck left a positive impression on us, and we vowed to return someday.

Innsbruck could serve as a suitable base for exploring this region through hiking. However, when we visited the city during the high season with the idea of booking something last minute, we weren't so lucky. The available options were either too expensive or not worth the cost, so again we found ourselves driving another hour to reach our planned destinations. Since we had the flexibility to adapt our plans, we decided to change the locations, and Mayerhoffen turned out to be an excellent place for exploring the places we had in mind for the next few days.

The beginning of the trail to Olpererhutte.

Day 4 - Olpererhutte Loop hike

This hike was the highlight of our trip. The trail starts at a beautiful turquoise lake called Schlegeis Stausee and it leads to a mountain hut - Olpererhutte. Throughout the whole way you can see some beautiful views of the lake and surrounding it mountains. When you get to the hut, you can decide if you’re going back with the same way or continue a loop trail hike. The full length of the loop is 14KM and can take up to 5 hours. On your way, you’ll have to pass the incline of over 900 meters but when you already at the hut, the worst is behind you! We did the whole loop and it was a very cool trail, so check it out yourself if you’re in the area!

Olperer hut with the turquoise lake Schlegeis Stausee in the background.

The famous hanging bridge next to Olpererhutte

Krimml waterfall in Hohe Tauren National Park

Day 5 - Hohe Tauern

You must know by now, that I love visiting various waterfalls. So when I learned during our trip that the biggest waterfall in Europe is in Austria, I knew that we have to stop by to see it.

Actually, in this picture you can see only one cascade of the 380 meters tall Krimml waterfall. There’s a 4km trail leading up to the top of the waterfall with numerous vantage points and platforms from which you can have a better look on the spraying water. Krimml waterfall is also world’s fifth highest waterfall.

After completing the waterfall trail, both the ascent and descent, we returned to our car with a spontaneous idea to visit another place that had been on our list for some time.

Hintersee in Bavaria at sunrise

Day 6 - Hintersee, Bavaria

I know it's not in Austria, but Hintersee became a part of our itinerary, so I'll include it here too. We arrived the previous day, took a refreshing dip in the icy-cold water, and spent the night under the million-star hotel – our car – at the camper site next to the lake. It was our first time intentionally spending the night in the car, and surprisingly, it wasn't bad at all, contrary to my expectations. We had a comfortable rest and woke up just 30 minutes before sunrise to witness the first light at the lake.

Throughout the entire trip, we were fortunate to have fantastic lighting conditions every sunrise and sunset, and fortunately, this time was no different. The light gently illuminated the mountain peaks, followed by the pine trees, and finally, the lake itself.

While Hintersee may appear somewhat similar to Gosausee, the atmosphere there was entirely different, and the water was noticeably colder. Reflecting on the fun we had at Gosausee, we quickly decided to type the destination into the navigation and head back to Austria.

Taking a dip in the refreshing water of Gosausee.

Day 7 - Gosausee

We returned to Gosausee in the afternoon of day 6 and spent most of the evening in the water, but we also took a leisurely walk around the lake to explore its other side. This lake has a wonderful vibe, and there are plenty of activities to enjoy, like the Donnerkogel via ferrata. Climbing the airy ridge of Donnerkogel via ferrata is an adventure on its own. The ultimate adrenaline rush comes when you conquer the 40-meter-long sky ladder, a highlight of any climbing journey. This trail is rather challenging and meant for people who have completed other via ferratas in the past. The entire route is quite demanding and takes a full 5-6 hours, with certain sections requiring climbing experience.

The 40-metre-long sky ladder on Donnerkogel Via Ferrata.

Long line of climbers waiting their turn to pass another obstacle.

This route was on my mind already for some time, but I felt that the day had come for me to challenge myself and complete it. Although I wished I had a camera with me to capture more photos, in reality, I had no idea how I'd manage it. The entire trail was demanding, and for the entire 5 hours, there was never a moment when I could relax or let my guard down. The intense sun and long lines didn't make it any easier. Some people even felt fainting or attempted to turn back out of fear. While many hiking enthusiasts see this via ferrata as another mountain attraction, it is a real physical challenge.

Conquering this trail was the perfect conclusion to our trip to Austria, during which we experienced a wide range of emotions. In the end, embarking on a trip without a concrete plan or hotel reservations was truly refreshing and allowed us to experience a new way of traveling. This trip has undoubtedly been one of the best adventures of our lives.



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